Last week actually marked a significant milestone in my music fandom – 20-July was exactly twenty years since I first attended a live, professionally promoted gig. That first show, by the way, was the (free) Heineken Festival in Roundhay Park, Leeds – I went to two days of it. The Thursday night I saw Back to the Planet, Pop Will Eat Itself and Siouxsie and the Banshees, while Saturday included 60ft Dolls, Salad, Skunk Anansie, Sleeper, Menswe@r and a spectacular headlining set from Pulp (just weeks after their legendary “stand-in” set at Glastonbury that made them stars at last).
Since then, I’ve absolutely no fucking idea how many live bands/live shows I’ve seen in total. I know that up to the end of 1999, I’d seen about 660 live sets, and from January 2010 until now, I’ve seen 720 (yes, I have a spreadsheet nowadays, and I wish I’d kept one all the way – my Last.fm account has as many as I can remember prior to setting that up in 2005). So an estimate of seeing probably 2,500 bands over the past twenty years would seem fairly reasonable.
So I asked the question on Facebook last week for my readers and friends to suggest the most memorable gigs that they attended, and I got some great responses. So, here, are some of my memories. Feel free to suggest yours in the comments.
I’ve covered the Astoria before in it’s own post, so I’m trying to avoid mentioning those gigs again, with one exception.
Heineken Festival, Leeds
My most vivid memory of that first weekend of gigging was in an absolutely rammed tent to see the hot band of the moment, on the Saturday afternoon. The band took their place onstage, Skin picked up the mic and murmured “check this out”…and the band go straight into Little Baby Swastikka. Needless to say, the place exploded when the chorus kicked in. Weirdly enough, I think I only saw them once more after this, at the ill-fated Lost Weekend five years later (and missing another of their tours meant missing out on my only chance to ever see Gravity Kills).
My first writing gig, and my first show in London as a University student, while it was still an exciting and awe-inspiring experience (it rapidly soured, to be honest, as I struggled through a degree I never completed). I joined the music pages of ROAR in my first week at King’s College London, and to my astonishment got this show instantly, and it also got published (I’m currently working on trying to get hold of a copy of it, as I’ve not seen it in years). I don’t actually remember much of the show itself – other than their opening with the intro of Do We Speak A Dead Language and absolutely ripping into Empower. But this one is very much about the event.
Manchester Academy 2
There was a time when (hed)PE were, frankly, fucking ace. This was about that time, after the release of Broke, when there was a potential, shining future for the band that never quite worked out, although Killing Time still slays. This show, though, on crutches after shattering my ankle, I stand at the back and watch the carnage in front of us unfold. Which included our friend Eddie stagediving from the top of the speaker stack, something that seemed to happen in slow motion…they caught him, mind.
Damnation Festival, University of Leeds
I saw PSI many, many times over the years (last count fifteen or sixteen). There were many kick-ass shows – indeed PSI were never a bad live band, even if for a while as they toned down the electronics they lost some of their brutal power. They clearly began to realise this, and later shows were like whirlwinds. The last time was one of the best – headlining the second stage at Damnation Festival, Matt and I have escaped the chaos of Carcass upstairs, and the band burst onstage just as we get there, an hour late, and proceed to blast through a set that covered everything back to Triad and Virus (the former being the rampaging opener). I don’t generally go into the ‘pit anymore, but here I threw myself in headlong. It was ace.
Also featuring ESA, Coreline, Autoclav1.1, prot0type, this was one of the only live gigs I’ve been involved in promoting, and bizarrely enough it turned out to be far more popular than the nascent night that spawned it – that maybe in retrospect we never gave too much of a chance. Resonance was a night of industrial and noise that Tim, Keef Baker and I ran for a while at Thesubculture in Leeds, and it only sporadically got the numbers in. The two live events worked better than we’d ever hoped, and we probably should have done more.
Zaphod Beeblebrox, Ottawa, ON
The start of a short Canadian odyssey that took in this, Kinetik and an awful lot of drinking and sightseeing. And new and old friends, too… one of which, DJ Leslie, the driving force behind Industrial Strength Tuesdays at Zaphods, sadly died recently. Memories of what was a great night are therefore tinged with sadness, but the night itself was great fun. It was also meant to have been the night where I saw Cyanotic at long last, but that didn’t happen for various reasons and I had to wait three more years until I did.
BIMFest X, TRIX XL, Antwerp
My first visit to Antwerp for BIMFest, and it was so much fun I’ve been back every year since (and will be there again in December). The reason I went the first time around was to see Clock DVA – another of those industrial legends that I’d never seen (worth it alone to see The Hacker and Sound Mirror live) – but there were many other great things. Like catching up with Belgian friends made in Montreal earlier in the year, making other new friends, drinking with Daisy’s workmate…oh and Pankow were fucking amazing, not to mention seeing Front 242 for the third time in a week!
Palác Akropolis, Prague
Followed up with a fifteen hour train journey across Germany to Antwerp for BIMFest (yeah, there again), this was a busy couple of days. It was also brutally cold – like minus ten celsius and a wind chill on top of that – but amid the snowy, frozen conditions, CJ and I managed two shows in a night – first The Young Gods doing their early material in an enthralling ninety minutes (a show so good I have since seen it in London and Antwerp too), then a deeply odd show in the bowels of Charles University, near Old Town Square. I have to confess that I wasn’t that keen on the Death In June set, but the industrial-neofolk of Larrnakh was absolutely enthralling.
T-Mobile Arena, Prague
That wasn’t the first time I’d gone out to Prague for a gig, though. Nine years before, a group of us headed to a slightly-warmer (you know, hovering around freezing) Prague to go and see Rammstein – as they hadn’t announced their UK dates yet. They did, of course, a couple of weeks later, and we went to that too. No matter – the gig was as astonishing as Rammstein always have been, and was followed by running into some fellow Brits and then getting battered on absinthe and other ill-judged spirits in a local bar. I’ve never seen a friend actually with a green tinge to their skin the following morning before.
Old Blue Last, London
Finally? One of those nights where you know you’re into something special early. I’d been enthralled by Wolfe’s earlier material, and my friend Fiona had been raving about her too – so we got tickets for the show, in the tiny confines of the Old Blue Last. A ghostly presence onstage, she was absolutely fantastic to watch and it was clear we were watching a singer who was destined for great things. For once, too, it has worked out – the material I’ve heard so far from imminent album Abyss appears to top everything else so far from her.